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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Board approves increase in police

[media-credit name=’MATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]halloweencops_mk416[/media-credit]The Madison Board of Estimates approved an amendment to the mayor's 2006 Executive Operating Budget adding four police officers and two squad cars to the Madison Police Department at a meeting Monday.

According to Chief Noble Wray, the goal for the MPD over the past few years has been to have 1.8 police officers for every 1,000 citizens. Despite the growth of the city in the past 10 years, only one additional officer has been funded.

Wray said understaffing in the MPD has always been an issue.

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"For the first time, we saw major overtime issues and officers getting little vacation time," Wray said. "Officer safety has also become an issue because we don't have enough people to call for backup."

Wray said the MPD continually assesses where officers are needed, and police are constantly being relocated to accommodate changing conditions. He asserted that the problem is not the way police are distributed for patrol, but rather the number of officers available.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said understaffing is a problem in many departments, and suggested alternative solutions to the MPD.

"We need to use the officers we have more efficiently also," Cieslewicz said. "Ninety-eight percent of burglar alarms are actually false alarms. Maybe it would be better to verify response as opposed to just adhering to the 1.8 [police officers for every 1,000 citizens] proposal."

Still, Wray said additional staffing for the MPD is something that should have been done years ago.

"Where we have really hurt ourselves as a city is that in 2003 and 2005 we did not add [officers]," Wray said. "If we don't add again this year, it will put us very far behind."

In addition to adding four new police officers in 2006, the amendment will also provide funding for two new squad cars. Each squad car will cost the city a significant amount of money, but Cieslewicz and Wray said more squad cars will increase the efficiency of the police.

"Dropped calls and calls not being responded to on time justify the need for new cars," Cieslewicz said.

Wray said ultimately the city needs more officers to be available for service, and their availability will increase with the addition of more squad cars.

Cieslewicz said the amendment would cost the city a total of $292,000. The money will come entirely from an increase in property taxes throughout the city. The adjustment in taxes for the average household next year will be $5.46, and the Patrol Staffing amendment for the MPD will account for about two-thirds of the tax increase.

Wray said the cost of the amendment is justified because safety is the best investment the city can make.

"We are looking to make police ready and prepared," Wray said. "We don't want to see what happens if we don't have enough staff in an important event."

The Board of Estimates also unanimously approved the budget amendment enabling the Madison Central Public Library to remain open for Sunday hours. The mayor proposed the amendment last Wednesday having secured $110,000 more than projected from Payments for Municipal Services.

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